Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: May 2009

2 - Antiquarianism, balladry and the rehabilitation of romance

from Part I - The Ends of Enlightenment
The significance of antiquarian activities reaches right into the quiddity of Romantic writing. Antiquarian researches were certainly politically charged, though their implications remained unarticulated beneath a wealth of accumulated data. Ballad collectors were the antiquaries of poetic culture, their 'artifacts' were recovered remnants of ancient poetry, valued initially for their glimpses into the arts, usages and modes of living. Translation of the oral ballads into printed collections opened chasms of classification and interpretation. Possible in theory, distinction between collection, editing, improvement, imitation and forgery, was elusive in practice. 'Authenticity' became an issue when oral performance was consigned to print. The minstrel-bard was a conserving force and a revolutionary one, an embodied figure of poetic imagination integral to the development of Romantic ideology. Historians and antiquarians were already recuperating medieval quest romance for the evidence they provided about life in the past. The malleability of romance forms and their equivocal association opened capacious possibilities to nineteenth-century historical novels.
Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

The Cambridge History of English Romantic Literature
  • Online ISBN: 9781139055970
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Thomas Brown , Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, 4 vols., Edinburgh: W. and C. Tait, 1820.

Robert Burns , The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, ed. James Kinsley , 3 vols., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968.

Ina Ferris , ‘Pedantry and the Question of Enlightenment History: The Figure of the Antiquary in Scott’, European Romantic Review 13 (2002).

Ina Ferris , The Romantic National Tale and the Question of Ireland, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Penny Fielding , Literature and Orality: Nationality, Culture, and Nineteenth-Century Scottish Fiction, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Mike Goode , ‘Dryasdust Antiquarianism and Soppy Masculinity: The Waverley Novels and the Gender of History’, Representations 82 (2003).

Nick Groom , The Making of Percy’s Reliques, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999.

Walter Scott , Waverley; or, ’Tis Sixty Years Since (1814), ed. Claire Lamont , Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981.

Rosemary Sweet , ‘Antiquaries and Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century England’, Eighteenth-Century Studies 34:2 (2001).